Vermont Sail Freight Project sails into New York City

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Imagine a ship filled with a cornucopia of locally grown, organic food, sailing down the Hudson River bound for New York City—powered only by the wind. You might be envisioning a scene straight out of the nineteenth century, or you could be thinking back to just last week, when the Vermont Sail Freight Project cruised into the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The Vermont Sail Freight Project (VSFP), which we wrote about last spring, is a project that is precisely what it sounds like: a sailboat, filled with local produce and other goods, sails from Vermont to New York City, delivering its Northeast Kingdom bounty along the way. “The project’s goal is to revitalize our regional food economy through ongoing relationships with family farms and the sailing community, and to share the spoils of this integrated model with citizens all the way along the Champlain-Hudson supply chain” according to the VSFP.

Erik Andrus, a rice farmer and director of the Vermont Sail Freight Project, recently told The New Yorker, “The boat is in many ways the least important part of this. What this is really about is farming, community, energy adaptation, and revitalizing food systems in our region. The boat is a means to an end.”

“New York City has to come to terms with the fact that it’s an island and a maritime city above everything else” said Andrus, which is especially poignant as we recently pass the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction. Projects like the VSFP provide examples of ways to build New York’s regional economy by working with the water, instead of against it.

A makeshift sailboat sails down the Hudson

The project is a model in sustainability from top to bottom. The forty-foot-long ship, Ceres, was built using crowd-sourced funding, and in addition to delivering local foods, it will serve as an educational platform for students to learn about local agriculture, sailing, and carbon neutrality. Goods were sold at one-day markets along the way, and customers and specialty food shops quickly snapped up the produce and foodstuffs. The zero carbon emissions continued even on dry land– Revolution Rickshaws, a pedicab company, transported goods to Quinciple, a farmer’s market subscription service that delivers food in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Ceres departed from Shoreham, Vermont, on October 6, and began a three week, 300-mile long journey to New York City, loaded down with all sorts of shelf-stable foods from Vermont and the Adirondack region of New York State. Stops and markets were held in Mechanicville, Troy, Albany, Hudson, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Beacon, Peekskill, Nyack, Yonkers, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, before finally arriving at the South Street Seaport. This voyage was the first time a wind-powered ship has delivered food to New York City since the 1950s.

Customers could pre-order food using Good Eggs, and then pick it up at either the Navy Yard on Saturday, October 26th, or at a stand at the New Amsterdam Market in the South Street Seaport on Sunday, October 27th. Food options included pantry vegetables like potatoes and carrots, honey, handcrafted sea salt, a variety of medicinal herbs and teas, fruit, beans, rice, grains, flours, oil and vinegars, wildcrafted foods, preserved foods, and (of course) plenty of maple syrup.